In 2010, Kubair Shirazee, a London-based Agile coach, faced the tragic news that his older brother had been murdered by an extremist organisation in Pakistan. This was a moment of pause for Kubair, it compelled him to explore how he could use his skills to help stop the spread of extremism in communities across the globe.
Inspired by the people he saw on the streets of Karachi who sell everything from fruit, to IKEA catalogues, he co-founded the non-profit, Peace Through Prosperity (PTP), which uses the Mobius method to help lift budding entrepreneurs out of poverty, and create their own narrative of change outside of extremist influences.
Though Kubair had originally planned to create PTP’s model by adapting Agile practices to include ideas from design thinking, lean, and business model innovation; much of the language and examples he found were just too software specific. When he came across Mobius in 2011, he was impressed with how adaptable it was to their needs, and used it to both create the PTP model, and help run the programs.
Mobius’ simple and customisable way of getting to positive outcomes gives PTP the tools they need to create success stories in marginalised communities everywhere.
One such successful entrepreneur is Anwar, a barbershop owner. When PTP first met Anwar, his salon consisted of a beat-up chair on the side of the road. His daily earnings were not even enough to provide food for his family, meaning Anwar could not educate his children unless he sent them to the free school (where the quality of education remains questionable at best). What’s more, Anwar had been forced to borrow money from loan sharks to survive.
The PTP team worked with Anwar to take him through their Mobius-lead ‘mini-MBA’ program, then spent nine months coaching and consulting him to bring to life the concepts. Using a Mobius map, the coaches captured the key learnings as they experimented and measured their progress towards the target outcomes. Learning how to relate to and understand his own customers’ outcomes helped Anwar focus on the real problems holding him back. Each iteration of the Mobius loop transformed his business from barely scraping by, to becoming a successful brick and mortar salon.
Anwar now employs four people. His two children are in a mainstream school, and he is financially independent. A brilliant result, especially when you consider Anwar now owns his narrative of change and is unlikely to be influenced by radical and extremist groups. Similar stories of PTP lifting up entrepreneurs across Pakistan and Yemen, prove that Kubair’s ambition to help people in marginalised communities step out on their own path to social transformation is being achieved. A phenomenal outcome that Mobius is proud to help map out a course for.
In my work as an agile coach and digital transformation consultant I have observed two patterns in every organisation I work with.
First, that while speed is essential to compete, building the right thing matters as much, if not more, than building quickly to drive a low time to market. Secondly, that in our digitally disrupted world, the biggest success stories don’t just have an IT department who build systems that should be helpful, business and technology work as one and technology are a core part of delivering the business strategy.
Yet, despite the strategic importance of technology in our modern economy, I often find myself working only with technologists, having tech conversations that don’t even consider business outcomes.
Our conversation might be about migrating a long list of existing APIs or a list of APIs to build to connect up legacy systems. Now whilst these things all matter, and often need to be done they are never where I start when companies ask me how to create business value, how to move faster and how to compete. The answer is never to start by looking inside the organisation. To create business value and compete in the digital economy, we need to connect to those who are connected to end customers and the business units who market products, whose job it is to understand those outside the organisation in order to understand the problems customers face and what they would value. We need to get the outside-in view.
The Mobius loop helps organisations to take an outside-in view. The Mobius framework is invaluable in helping locate where they are now and then plot a path to navigate through the sometimes overwhelming array of options and tools open to us. Mobius helps find the simplest path to defining a Minimum Viable Product (MVP); an MVP that delivers a Business Outcome and real business value.
Mobius Workshop – Starting with the Discovery Canvas
I typically start with the Discovery canvas, as this is often the stage that has been skipped past as teams dive straight into getting stuff delivered, without checking that the outputs are going to deliver outcomes for their organisation. For example migrating all your APIs to another platform, versus asking which APIs are being used and which ones are most valuable. For this reason I often spend more time in the Discovery and Options phases, working to explore where the organisations I am working with can create value and how.
In doing this, I leverage the toolkits drawing on best practice from Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile & Google Design Sprints to help us get a deeper understanding of the whys and desired outcomes. My favourite techniques include Empathy Maps, Customer Snapshots, Five Whys, Business Snapshots, Stakeholder Target Maps & How Might We notes.
Mobius then perfectly frames the critical next step. What is the outcome we want and how are we going to measure our progress towards it? Getting that Outcome clearly defined gives everyone a north star to keep focus and aligned as we start to think about Options; the stage where we diverge and then converge on the options to take forward. Sometimes there is a need to loop round Discovery again to find answers to key questions or assumptions. A key technique I always use in this phase is Prioritisation Grids, mapping the value/impact of an ideas to it’s feasibility/difficulty to implement.
The pace at which you move through the Mobius loop varies hugely. Sometimes you can move through the full loop in a week, sometimes it’s better to focus on just Discovery and spend many days in that space. Then with Option/s selected to take forward we enter the more familiar zone of Delivery; more familiar due to the huge rise of Agile delivery approaches. Often organisations can take it from here as they have clear measures of success and a common understanding of the outcome they’re aiming to achieve. This adds real clarity and focus to our delivery planning, stand-ups, demos and retros. This is also leads delivery of those outcomes, as after all, you get what you measure.
Red Hat’s Open Innovation Lab is a 4-12 week residency program where clients use Mobius to fast-track their transition from traditional ways of working to be more adaptive, open and innovative.
With a diverse client roster ranging from aerospace, to healthcare, adopting Mobius globally across the Open Innovation Labs made sense, because each has a very different context, business language, and set of practices they need to use.
Clients are able to identify and chart the best path forward as a team, using Mobius as a navigator to leverage the best of DevOps, Agile, eXtreme Programming, LeanUX and Continuous Delivery.– Red Hat’s Tim Beattie
In a typical Open Innovation Lab’s residency, teams begin by using the Mobius ‘Discovery Loop’ to understand what problems they’re trying to solve, who they’re trying to solve them for and what gains they’re trying to achieve. The teams usually move through the Discovery Loop in just a few days before achieving a shared understanding of options – hypotheses that the development team can then run through research, experiments and idea implementation. Finally, the residency team works to validate hypotheses. To do this, they move around the Mobius ‘Delivery Loop’, seeking feedback, learning and measurements along the way. The result of the process is more meaningful outcomes, due to every facet of the innovation process – from discovery to delivery – being explored in a way that is relevant to the client’s situation.
One of the more challenging aspects of this way of working can be remembering which tools worked well, how they interconnected, and what they revealed. To solve for this, every team plots their process on a Mobius Loop, which is created incrementally as practices are adopted. This becomes a valuable visualisation tool, particularly when teams present back to their organisation and stakeholders the outcomes that have been delivered and how they got there.
Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs use Mobius’ methods to help their diverse clients achieve remarkable outcomes on a real business case in a matter of weeks. They use Mobius to navigate the practices, get better results and track their progress. A testament to what teams from any industry can do when given the right tools to transform the way they innovate.
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